Forest Of Love

The Northern Pikes

Universal, 2019

http://thenorthernpikes.com

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/10/2019

In an era when the smoldering remnants of the music industry are busy flooding the market with nostalgia-driven commemorative reissues, genuine comebacks, in which a veteran act delivers new material that meets or even surpasses its former standards, are a much rarer thing. One of the best examples in 2019 arrived from north of the border as late-’80s Canadian darlings The Northern Pikes—owners of gold and platinum albums and half a dozen hit singles, but only sporadically active since 1992—reconvened with three-quarters of their classic-era lineup to deliver the vigorous, emphatic return to form Forest Of Love.

The new album finds founding members Jay Semko (bass, vocals), Bryan Potvin (guitar, vocals) and Don Schmid (drums)—who’ve toured occasionally in the 2000s as a power trio—joined by Grapes Of Wrath’s Kevin Kane on guitar, keyboards, and vocals. The album is the band’s ninth overall, but first in 16 years. As before the emphasis is on clever, hooky songs that are unafraid to veer off on exploratory tangents without ever losing the central thread, guitar rock with as much brain as brawn.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Kickoff cut “King In His Castle” plays with anti-authority tropes, a feisty number that alternates ringing, airy verses with a thundering chorus of Zeppelinesque crunch, setting the bar high for what’s to come. That promise is promptly fulfilled with “Canada Boy,” a driving, exuberant rocker overflowing with tight harmonies and propulsive guitar and drum fills. “Julianna” offers a change of pace, a spacious mid-tempo number with a soaring chorus, leading into the self-reflective acoustic ballad “Elephant Who Lives Here.”

And then we’re back at it. “Will Over Will” is all taut, thrumming, electric tension for its first 2:20, where upon the tension releases with a time-signature-shifting, sky-punching bridge that eventually resolves back to the original melody. “Draw From The Deck” plays a ringing guitar line and soaring harmonies off against a subversive psychedelic undercurrent.

The title track arrives as a low, rumbly celebration of passion that’s both earthy and full of drive, followed a pair of playful, perceptive British Invasion-styled rockers in “Faith Of A Fool” and “Mr. Unhappy.” The album closes on a gentle, elegiac note as Semko and Potvin harmonize over twin acoustics, pleading with a disaffected lover: “Don’t you give up / Don’t you give up / Keep your faith in love.”

Forest Of Love spotlights a middle-aged band that’s lost none of its essential fire, while gaining hard-won wisdom along the way, writing songs that are sharply self-reflective yet also dynamic and vital. This album feels not so much like a restatement as a rebirth, a fresh flowering of the Northern Pikes that engages head and heart in equal measures, and urges every one of us not to give up when we still have more to offer.

Rating: A-

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